THE SPIRIT AND REGENERATION. According to Jesus and Paul, regeneration, new birth being born again, is the work of the Spirit.
Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (John 6:63).
He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7).
Because of the Father’s mercy, a believer obtains imputed righteousness (justified) through Christ and God’s imparted righteousness through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, salvation is a threefold work of the Trinity, with the Holy Spirit as the agent of it.
“Regeneration” (paliggenesia paliggenesia) a compound of “again” and “birth” is the imparting of life to that which was previously dead. It appears once more in the Bible, speaking of the eschatological renewal of all things when Christ sits on His throne in the kingdom (Matthew 19:28).
Does regeneration go beyond what Adam forfeited through his rebellion? With regeneration, the Spirit of God indwells the believer. Man’s relationship with God might be restored in a greater way than Adam experienced. The Bible is silent as to God indwelling him. Regeneration is a result of anwyen (anothen), being “born again,” “anew” or “from above” and “of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8).
Regeneration is a resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life, a new birth a new creation possessing the divine nature.
But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! (Ephesians 2:5).
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires (2 Peter 1:4).
Regeneration does not produce sinless perfection in the believer. Rather, it leads to a daily renunciation of worldly passions and to sober, upright, godly living in this world.
But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator (Colossians 3:10).
The believer receives the divine nature but needs to put off the old man and put on the new man. Regeneration is not a process but a new birth, which is entirely a supernatural work of the Trinity:
1. The Father (John 1:13; James 1:17-18)
2. The Son (John 5:21-27
3. The Spirit (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5)
However, transformation (putting on the new man) is the responsibility of the believer, which is an ongoing process.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).
Being instantaneous, regeneration is not experiential. It is not dependent on feeling, though it may produce feeling. No one can answer the question, “What exactly happens at regeneration?”
Though the term “regeneration” is not used in the New Covenant, a new heart (regeneration) is its primary promise (Jeremiah 31:33; 32:39-40; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:24-27) and the reason Christ gave His life.
In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you (Luke 22:20).
As we have seen, the Spirit convicts those in the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is through the Word of God—the Gospel message—the Spirit reveals righteousness from God in Christ (Romans 1:1-6; 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is involved in a person’s salvation prior to new birth. Prior to regeneration, the Holy Spirit pierces the heart with the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart Hebrews 4:12).
The Spirit’s piercing the heart with the Word of God is evident when Peter preached on Pentecost.
When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:36-39).
No one is saved outside of the Holy Spirit piercing his or her heart with the Word of God.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! (Romans 10:13-15).
Salvation is always a two-sided transaction. First, God calls people to repentance through His Word and His Spirit, and then, a person calls on God with repentance and belief in the heart.
The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:8-10).
Repentance and belief are a free will choice of the individual, yet they are prompted by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, especially the Law. The Law brings about the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20) and it leads to Christ so that we might be saved (Galatians 3:24). Therefore, the ministry of the Spirit in regeneration begins with His conviction and enlightment.